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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 8 No 7 - July 2012

1. Paddle with Purpose

The Mighty Quapaws have been nominated for the Canoe & Kayak Magazine 2012 Paddle with Purpose award, which goes to “the most-inspiring paddling effort, organization or expedition devoted to a philanthropic cause…”

Go now and vote at:

2. Canoes & Paintings!

“John Ruskey: The Downstream Painter” now on exhibition At Helena, Arkansas’s Delta Cultural Center. Opens today July 3rd to run until Aug. 25th. This display will feature original watercolor paintings and hand-carved full sized wooden canoes featuring the KIPP Dugout Canoe -- which was completed in May 2012 after three years of hard carving by the students of the KIPP Delta College Prep School of Helena! Opening Reception Saturday July 14th 5-6:30pm; KIPP Dugout Reception August 2nd 4-5:30pm.

3. Mark River

One of the newest Mighty Quapaws is Mark “River” Peoples. Mark Twain... meet Mark River! In addition to being a great guy and a monster paddler (and serving as the 1Mississippi Southern Region intern) Mark River has another talent we will be sharing with you in upcoming editions of the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch. He is a talented writer with an ear for nature and poetry. Scroll down for Mark’s latest blog, “the Cycles of Life.”


Paddle with Purpose

Dear friends: Please go and check out the many nominees and make your vote...

If you’re so inclined, vote for us! The Mighty Quapaws have been nominated for the Canoe & Kayak Magazine Paddle with Purpose award, which goes to “the most-inspiring paddling effort, organization or expedition devoted to a philanthropic cause…”

Go now and vote at:


THE CAUSE Mentoring at-risk youth on the Big Muddy


THE METHOD Canoe-building, river-tripping, art and music

John Ruskey, noted local bluesman, canoe guide and owner of Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC), has been sharing his love of America’s greatest river with at-risk youth since 1998. Ruskey’s Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program introduces children from some of the nation’s most impoverished communities to the Mississippi River and the possibilities manifested in its rolling waters. Students in the program learn canoe and paddle making, river guiding, camping and survival skills. Ruskey’s aim is to teach the Mighty Quapaws self-reliance, teamwork, leadership, environmental stewardship and ethics.

From July 2012 Canoe & Kayak Magazine:

“Mississippi River Outfitter John Ruskey has been battling nature-deficit disorder with trips in six- to fourteen-person hand crafted wood-strip and dugout canoes for impoverished Deep South kids since 1998. Ruskey’s Mighty Quapaws after-school apprenticeship program gets youngsters “away from the crowded house and helps break the never-ending cycle of poverty,” says Ruskey. the owner of Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Quapaw Canoe Company.

For Ruskey, paddling a big canoe is a “true democratic experience.” It enforces the need for consensus, compromise, self- and group awareness, and sets the stage for what he calls “spiritual experiences with mother nature.” Ruskey remembers one apprentice laying down on a sandbar and marveling at the size of the sky. Regardless of demographics he insists that there is a “connection that every paddler makes when they step into the canoe and enter that special place that exists on the water…”

MORE INFO C&K On Assignment: Mississippi Wandering

Go now and vote at:


John Ruskey:

The Downstream Painter

The newest exhibit at the Delta Cultural Center will have a Mississippi River theme when “John Ruskey: The Downstream Painter” opens July 3. Slated to run until Aug. 25, this display will feature original watercolor paintings and hand-carved full sized wooden canoes, all created and designed by John Ruskey, river guide and owner of Quapaw Canoe Co.

Approximately 40 framed watercolor paintings will depict scenes of the Mississippi River, as well as birds and animals that live along the river and its shores. The exhibit will also include large hand-drawn, watercolor maps of the river and its tributaries.

Two hand-carved full sized canoes will be on display, including one carved by students from the KIPP Delta College Preparatory School, under the direction of Mr. Ruskey.

Two receptions will be held during the run of the exhibit and the public is invited to attend. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, July 14 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the DCC Visitors Center. This event will coincide with the downtown Helena Second Saturday activities.

A second reception, sponsored by KIPP, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. A brief ceremony will be held to recognize the students who participated in the canoe carving.

All events are free and open to the public. Gallery hours at the DCC Visitors Center at 141 Cherry Street and the nearby DCC Depot at 95 Missouri Street are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, interested persons can call the Delta Cultural Center at (870) 338-4350 or toll free at (800) 358-0972, visit the DCC online at

For the full story, go the Helena Daily World story at:


The Mark River Blog:

The River Gator Low Water Expedition

The Cycles of Life

As I return from the most “aquatastic” exploration in the history of my river life, I could not believe I've had the opportunity to experience and acknowledge the picturesque landscape known to man. This was the inaugural run of the River Gator, 30 years in the making, and it was epic.

The ecologic scenery incredible, but distantly fleeting & remote to humans, because it changes daily and nightly as we replenish our bodies after a hard day paddling under the wild skies of the Lower Mississippi River Delta.

Last year at this time the Mississippi River was at flood stage, 50 feet higher. The miscellaneous islands, peninsulas, and sandbars were underwater, wildlife displaced and discarded, with only the animals with superior genetic instincts made it it to mainland. Many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes were literally swept away and missed a year of offspring and reproduction.

It was incredible to see the landscape usually covered with a perfect camouflaged medium for the complex conglomerate of living organisms the river hides without question. It make me recall one of my favorite classic rock songs," Horse With No Name", by America. The lyric, " The Ocean is a Desert with it's life underground, with a perfect disguise above", can be applied to freshwater also. When the river is at low water you can see the different levels of structure and landscape that's invisible 90 percent of the year. Most notable are land fields of various exposed petrified stumps and root balls, failed manmade structures, and large trees which provide habitat for various freshwater fish and invertebrates, making it challenging for predatory fish, and human accessibility. During low water, the cycle of life is booming: replenishing, restoring, and balancing ecological diversities . There are not many places were you can experience freshwater, desert, grasslands, and deciduous forest in the same natural canvas.

The Creator always gives us mammals and other creatures of nature what we need. As the waters recede, blue holes and freshwater springs hold stranded fish, mostly filter feeders, leaving a sushi smorgasbord for water snakes, raccoons, coyotes, turtles, and other beach combing predators looking for a easy meals. Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Cormorants stand side by side gorging themselves without any competitive instincts knowing there's plenty for all. Pelicans hover over shrinking holes gathering for there feast. Female Least Terns, on the verge of extinction, nest on sandbars while males bring them gifts of fish to win hearts. Kildeer nest on gravel beds at the confluences. Greater Yellowlegs and Fish Crows work the shorelines chasing small fish while the Belted Kingfisher dives with stealth from the air. Like there ocean cousins, Mississippi Map, Mud , and Redears use the exposed dunes to lay eggs during the evenings, risking lives for the next generations with owls, Kites, and Bald Eagles watching from above. Small rifts and runnels flow into the channel full of frogs chasing sandflies and other insects which attracts copperheads, cottonmouths, and various water snakes.

The channel narrows daily continuously exposing remembrance of the shallow seas that covered the landscape long ago. the carcass of ancient creatures create limestone deposits that filter the beautiful freshwater that we enjoy today. Rocks and mineral beds from tributaries such as St. Francis, White, and the Arkansas River collect at the confluences form gravel beds full of petrified mud, wood, and fossils from far as southeast Missouri and Leadville, CO. Skip Jack Herring seem to leap out of the water being chased relentlessly by large,stripped, hybrid, and white bass. Longnose and Alligator Gar wait patiently at the sloughs of the oxbow lakes emptying back into the channel dispersing schools of gizzard shad. Fishermen on the surface seeking the delicious flesh of the blue, channel, flathead, and spoonbill catfish with floating contraptions and underwater nets.

The oxygen production of the temperate deciduous forest of cottonwoods and black willows fill my lungs, cleansing my bloodstream, refreshing my soul, reinvigorating my mind, creating creative thought processes needed to decipher the cycle of life occurring before my eyes. It's great to be at top of the food chain. Orioles, Cardinals, Red-Wind Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Flycatchers, Oreo's, and Nuthatchers simultaneously pluck the forest canopy of insect nymphs like kabobs, while competing in song making the forest an orchestral collaboration. Wild turkeys exchange calls from the willows being perfectly camouflaged by the reflection of the sun off there translucent feathers. Deer tracts cover the grasslands and beaches foraging on new growth and wild greens. The beavers have plenty of food , but lack the protection of the receding, descending, evaporating river channel from predators.

I ponder our existence and position on the food chain as I sit admiring the geographical and geological settings at the mouth of the new channel the Arkansas River carved after the 2011 flood. As the cottonwoods and black willows make it snow in June, I process these cycles of life, the checks and balances that keep our environment and lives, stable and sustainable. The Quapaw's chose this region to settle. Maybe for the diverse habitat, or the cool evening Rocky Mountain breeze which accompanies the sunset, or the strong electromagnetic fields present when I step foot on this sacred landscape.

Probably, all the above, I just take it all in knowing next time will look different as the cycle of life never stops.

-Mark River

Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 8 No 7 - July 2012 APPENDIX

Paddle with Purpose:

Other Nominees for C&K Paddle with Purpose:


THE PROGRAM Whitewater paddling and other outdoor sports for young adults with cancer


THE METHOD Empowering young people to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.

First Descents introduces young adults with cancer to outdoor challenges, allowing them to push their limits and face their fears. The experience allows them to regain the confidence and self-reliance often lost to cancer. The experience is designed to allow healing to happen naturally and organically—without forced conversations, structured group sessions or therapy. The program has grown to include a variety of outdoor sports, with whitewater kayaking being the original and still most common setting. Programs are limited to 15 participants, with professional staff and volunteers from the outdoor sports community. The program is free, including travel scholarships when needed.


THE CAUSE Healing wounded spirits through kayak fishing
THE METHOD Bring wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers, and go fishing
Heroes on the Water serves all military personnel who have been wounded, injured or disabled. What looks like a day trip of paddling and fishing for wounded vets is in fact something much deeper and long-lasting. As all paddlers know, time on the water is therapeutic. HOW facilitates that healing by bringing wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers in 35 chapters around the country. Founder Jim Dolan estimates HOW has introduced 4,800 wounded veterans to kayak fishing, and his goal is to have 100 chapters nationwide serving 10,000 veterans. Being on the water gives soldiers a feeling of peace and freedom from their wounds—an experience that “coalesces into personal revelations that while the wounds may have closed one door, there are other doors to explore. Life is still good.”



THE CAUSE Teaching children about the outdoors

THE INSTIGATOR Dave and Amy Freeman

THE METHOD An online curriculum based on the couple’s nearly 12,000-mile wilderness odyssey

The Wilderness Classroom is almost as simple as it sounds. As expedition members-such as founders Dave and Amy Freeman-travel remote pieces of the globe, they interact with classrooms via the Internet. The Freemans are currently on their “North American Odyssey,” a three-year, 11,700-mile trip by kayak, canoe and dogsled across North America. As they travel, they post photos, journal entries, dilemmas, podcasts, videos, and maps for students to follow and learn from. The Freemans currently have 2,100 teachers and 70,000 students participating online, and they hope to push the student number to 100,000 by the journey’s end. They’ll also visit 50 schools and share their experiences with over 12,000 school kids, in person.


THE CAUSE Building trust between police and native youth


THE METHOD Long journeys in voyageur canoes

Relations between First Nation communities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are complicated by a long, bitter history of institutional discrimination. RCMP staff sergeant Ed Hill works to heal these old wounds using traditional Pacific Northwest-style war canoes. In 1997, he and native artist Roy Henry Vickers organized a 31-day flotilla in which lawmen and native youth canoed more than 700 miles from the village of Hazelton in Central B.C. to Victoria. That journey inspired the annual Pulling Together events, in which law enforcement officers—once charged with enforcing discriminatory laws—and First Nations people get together to renew trust and bridge cultural gaps through the common cause of paddling canoes. Nearly 300 people participated in the eight-day journey last year.

MORE INFO In The Same Boat

For Immediate Release:



Canoe & Kayak magazine is pleased to announce that voting for the first annual Canoe & Kayak Awards presented by Zeal Optics is now open in all categories. The awards honor paddling’s most inspiring people, expeditions and films, chosen by paddlers. Vote online at The awards presentation and celebration will take place Aug. 2 at Pierpont Place in downtown Salt Lake City, coinciding with the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show.

Voting opens today for Movie of the Year and Reel of the Year. Polls opened last week for Male and Female Paddler of the Year, Expedition of the Year and the Paddle with Purpose Award, which honors philanthropic efforts by and for paddlers. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award will also be announced at the Aug. 2 Canoe & Kayak Awards celebration.

The nominees represent the remarkable diversity and talent found in modern paddling, but leave us with some tough decisions: How do we choose between short films like NRS and Forge Motion Pictures Of Souls + Water: The Nomad, which features Erik Boomer dropping 73-foot Sahalie Falls, and Andy Maser’s The Craziest Idea, which documents the two largest dam removal projects in history? How do you compare Pete McBride’s film about paddling the length of the Colorado River with Amongst It’s Canoe Movie II, which follows the first OC-1 descents of North Carolina’s Toxaway River and numerous Colorado steep creeks? Can you really compare groundbreaking expeditions like the Ellesmere Circumnavigation (1,500 miles over ice and Arctic waters) and the Grand Inga Project (the first descent of the world’s biggest rapids)?

How do we choose? The answer is, we don’t. You do.

Go to to meet the nominees, see their stories in words, photographs

and videos, and cast your vote.

Special thanks to our partners for their support of the first-ever Canoe & Kayak Awards: Zeal Optics, Kru Vodka, Shred Ready, Necky Kayaks, Body Glove and NRS.

Be sure to follow Canoe & Kayak magazine on and on Twitter @CanoeKayakMag (#CKAwards) for updates on the Awards and voting.


Zeal Optics is based in Boulder, Colorado and known for revolutionary advances in performance eyewear. ZEAL’s passion is creating some of the world’s best performing sunglasses and goggles for those that enjoy an active lifestyle. Located in the mountains, ZEAL is built forlake living, mountain fun and every kind of active adventure in between. Every ZEAL sunglass frame is made from Z-Resin, a plant-based resin made from castor bean oil instead of crude oil, creating not just a “green line” but making the entire full line of eyewear eco-friendly. Stay tuned to ZEAL Optic’s Facebook page at for more updates.


Since 1973, Canoe & Kayak magazine has been the world’s leader in paddlesports media. C&K reaches over 300,000 enthusiastic paddlers every month through print, digital mobile devices and tablets, events, and online at The award winning publication is part of GrindMedia, a Source Interlink Media company.


Source Interlink Media’s GrindMedia is home to renowned action and adventure sports magazine brands Surfer, Surfing, Snowboarder, Skateboarder, Powder, Bike, Canoe & Kayak, SUP-StandupPaddler, Dirt Rider, ATV Rider, and Paved. Along with our standalone websites, including, Newschoolers and, GrindMedia is the leading provider of print and online action sports and entertainment content in the United States. Delivering significant reach across both action sports enthusiast and various in-market consumer audiences, GrindMedia produces more than 20 leading events and webcasts such as Surfer Poll Awards, Powder Video Awards, Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro, EnduroCross and International Surfing Day. Grind Media is also the exclusive action and adventure sports content provider for Yahoo! Sports. To learn more, visit